Marsh Path

History of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

Winter 1945/1946

Martha Crone
Martha Crone in the Garden in a 1951 photo.

1946 completes the 40th year of the Garden and Martha Crone's 14th year as Curator.

Many new plants set out in 1946 are non-native, apparently an attempt to see what would grow in the new prairie area. Many did not last until the 1951 census. No source was given for any new plants. With the development of the Upland Garden, it is incredible the amount of planting Martha Crone did in 1946 and little wonder that her log is virtually devoid of mentioning bird activity, which she usually never neglected. Even the warbler migration is not noted. Birds are only mentioned twice - August 1st “Birds still singing” and a note on September 24 that “a few Hummingbirds still here.” Martha religiously noted the arrival of the first Hummingbird and the departure of the last.

On January 25 Martha was to be honored at a meeting of the Plymouth Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star (O.E.S. chapter 19). She was retiring having served the chapter for 12 years as the Minneapolis Tribune announced on January 19. The time frame is rather strange since we have newspaper accounts of her being treasurer of the Chapter already in 1930.

Spring 1946

Minnesota Dwarf Trout Lily
Minnesota Dwarf Trout Lily, photo from a Kodachrome by Martha Crone on April 25, 1955.

The first entry in the log was March 28 when she planted 75 Snow Trilliums removed from a site in Mankato. [The Mankato/New Ulm area a familiar source of plants for her.]

In the first 15 days of April she planted 130 Pasque Flowers. April 18 saw the introduction of 175 Minnesota Dwarf Trout lily, Erythronium propullans, but she did not list the source. This is the first mention of them being planted since Eloise Butler introduced them in 1909. Martha’s source must have been Goodhue, Rice or Steel counties where they are native.

May 10 had a heavy frost, followed by a snowstorm on the 11th with temperatures of 26 degrees. Many flowers were frozen.(1)

Two new plants were introduced in the Spring without the source being given. (1)
Aconitum napellus L., Monkshood, an introduced species,
Adoxa moschatellina L., Muskroot, native.

Martha recommended Monkshood as a plant rabbits would avoid. On May 29 the first new identification stakes were put in the new Upland Garden. These were provided by Clinton Odell.

On May 6 the Minneapolis Tribune in Ruth Thompson's Minnesota Memories column published a look-back at Eloise Butler under the theme that the Garden was a memorial to the former teacher. It is mostly historical but contains a few errors of fact. The column states that the Garden is 30 acres with 10 having been added in the new upland. It was actually about 14 acres as only 4 were added in 1944 and the north meadow which contained about 10 acres was abandoned in 1944.

One reference that is helpful to history in the column is the reference to the old White Oak Monarch. The writer states it was taken down in 1942 but Martha Crone herself reported to the Park Board that she had it removed in October of 1940. The size of the tree is given as 4 feet in diameter and 14 feet in circumference and the age of 700 years is given which is a repeat of what is stated in many references of the time. The only previous reference to the actual size of the tree is Eloise Butler's measurement written in the May 1913 issue of The Bellman. There, the circumference is stated as 10 feet, which based on modern tree growth tables would place the tree age in the range of 290 years. Contrary to Eloise, the Park Board Forester, Louis Boeglin, estimated the tree to be 400 years back in 1923.(2)

Since Martha Crone had the tree taken down and was there at the time, perhaps this new reported size comes from what was seen in 1940, in which case if we use the circumference of 14 feet we have an average diameter of 53 inches and the tree growth tables tell us the tree could have been about 400 years old, still well short of Eloise Butlers proudly proclaimed age of 700 years - but she did not have researched tree growth factor tables in her day. The largest known White Oak today in Minnesota is in Scott County and is 5.8 feet in diameter and that still falls well short of 700 years.

Summer 1946

Spotted Knapweed
Spotted Knapweed, planted in 1946 by Martha Crone. Considered an invasive plant today. Photo ©Merle R. Black, Wisconsin Flora.

By the time June came, Martha already had over 3,000 plants in the ground. During the summer months she added another 3,700. Of those summer plants, the following are new to the Garden and we note which ones survived until the 1951 census. "Native" refers to a plant found in the wild in Minnesota, at settlement time. "Introduced" means the plant is found here but originally imported from somewhere else. "Not native" means the plant has not been found in the wild in Minnesota but is native elsewhere in North America. Updated scientific names are given in [ ].

Upland Garden
Upland Garden view - under development, shows the aluminum plant labels first used in 1946. Photo from a Kodachrome by Martha Crone on June 5, 1950.

The last possible new plant was listed as “50 Wild Strawberry” without specifying the species. Both species of Wild Strawberry were listed on the 1951 census, but to this time only the Virginia Wild Strawberry, Fragaria virginiana, had been recorded. So it is possible that this is the point at which Fragaria vesca, the Woodland Strawberry, enters the Garden.

During the summer a new trail was cut through the wetland, which may approximate same area as the Lady’s-slipper Lane of today, but not necessarily in the exact place. Eloise Butler had side paths leading to certain plantings but not a continuous path through the heart of the wetland and this path may have connected several of her side paths. The trail had a corduroy base. See the 1947 history for a map of that era showing these wetland trails. Martha noted in her report: “A new trail has been constructed through the swamp winding gracefully, along which many plantings of swamp loving plants are being made, such as the Cardinal Flower, Blue Lobelia and many others.” (3)

One entry in Martha's log this summer was historically significant. On June 11 she wrote "32 Showy Lady's-slipper from lower enclosure to violet path." This was the first time she mentioned removing plants from the north meadow that contained Eloise Butler's Mallard Pool. We believe that area and the pool were abandoned in 1944 and Martha is retrieving some valuable plants. Martha made no entries in her log of planting in that area after 1939. More details on the meadow and the Mallard Pool in this article.

Autumn 1946

Yellow Trillium
Yellow Trillium, first introduced by Martha Crone in 1946. Photo ©G D Bebeau.

By the time the Garden closed the total count of plants set out in 1946 was 8,343. The following plants set out in the autumn are new to the Garden and we note which ones survived until the 1951 census:

In addition Martha planted seeds of 33 species. Most seeds were planted in flats near the office where they would over-winter as necessary for germination. Most of October was occupied with the seeds. Her last log entry was on October 25 when she planted the 25 Bitterooot listed above.

Significant plantings in 1946 of species already in the Garden:

Hepatica Hill
Hepatica Hill area of the Garden which Martha Crone began extensively planting in 1946. Photo by Martha on April 16, 1955.

Martha specifically mentions in her annual report (3) the following:

The lower Garden has had many plantings added. In careful imitation of natures way, 550 Sharp-lobed Hepaticas and 225 Large-flower Trilliums were set out on a hillside sloping to the east. This is to be an outstanding display when in bloom. Here also saplings were thinned out to allow some sunshine to filter through the larger trees.

This was what came to be known as Hepatica Hill. It was the same area or near the same area that Eloise Butler had made similar plantings.

In her annual report to the Park Board Martha again thanks Clinton Odell as follows:

The new upland garden altho established only a few years ago, has proven a distinct success. No small thanks and appreciation is due to Mr. C.M. Odell, for his untiring efforts in furthering the Garden.

Plants in the new Garden have been marked with new labels, total of 250 were distributed, all of which were contributed by Mr. Odell. They are attractive and easily read, using only the common names of plants. Technical terms having been avoided, since they too often cause confusion for many visitors, also are too lengthy.

On September 22 the Minneapolis Tribune published an article about Clinton Odell and his business - the Burma-Vita Company, outlining how the company had become successful and giving a good history of Burma Shave. [PDf copy of Tribune article.]

Martha had two workmen available this year - Clarence Larson and Fred Gau. (5)

(1) Garden Log - 1946

(2) Minneapolis Tribune December 13, 1923 "City's Oldest Tree Periled by Flames in Glenwood Park."

(3) Annual Reports of the Garden Curator to the Board of Park Commissioners - dated February 24, 1947 to Charles E. Doell.

(4) Annual Reports of the Garden Curator to the Board of Park Commissioners - dated January 30, 1946 First report to new Superintendent Charles E. Doell.

(5) Martha Crone records at Minnesota Historical Society.

Photo top of page: The 1946 path in the marsh, with an open pool visible of the left. Photo by Martha Crone on May 15, 1952.

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Garden History Archive

Printable PDF file of this page.

Links to related pages:
- Abbreviated Life of Eloise Butler

- Martha Crone - 2nd Garden Curator

- Ken Avery - 3rd Curator and Gardener

- Cary George - 4th Gardener

- Our Native Plant Reserve - Short document on the origins of the Garden.

- Eloise Butler's writings, a selection of essays written by Eloise Butler on the early Garden years.

- Geography of the Garden- an illustrated tour


Martha Crone's Garden Log and her 1951 Census of plants in the Garden.

Various papers and correspondence of Eloise Butler and Martha Crone in the collection of the Minnesota Historical Society.

Photos by Martha Crone are from her collection of Kodachromes that was given to the Friends by her daughter Janet following Martha's death in 1989.

Historical Climatology of Minneapolis-St. Paul Area by Charles Fisk.

Friends Home Page

©2017 Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. Photos as credited and are used with permission for educational purposes, for which the Friends thank them and the organization providing the photos. Text and research by Gary Bebeau. "" - 030422